70% of Americans on Prescription Drugs

70% of Americans on Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug use in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past decade, with nearly seven out of ten Americans being prescribed medications, according to a new study by the Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center.  About 20% of patients has been prescribed five medications or more; with antibiotics, anti-depressants and opioid painkillers topping the list of most widely prescribed drugs.

The findings are published online in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Often when people talk about health conditions they’re talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes,” said study author Jennifer St. Sauver, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic’s Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.

046“However, the second most common prescription was for anti-depressants — that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on. And the third most common drugs were opioids, which is a bit concerning considering their addicting nature.”

Researchers say the findings are valuable because they shed light on the prescribing practices and patterns of drug use for various age groups of men and women.

“Prescription drug abuse has become the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States,” wrote St. Sauver. “Medication-related adverse outcomes in U.S. hospitals and emergency departments increased 52% between 2004 and 2008.”

Overall, women and older adults receive the most prescriptions. Vaccines, antibiotics and anti-asthma drugs are most commonly prescribed in people younger than 19. Anti-depressants and opioids are most common among young and middle-aged adults.

Cardiovascular drugs are most common in older adults, with men having a higher prevalence of cardiovascular drug prescriptions than women, which is consistent with cardiovascular disease patterns.

But women received more prescriptions than men across several drug groups, especially anti-depressants. Nearly one in four women aged 50 to 64 are on an anti-depressant.

“As you get older you tend to get more prescriptions, and women tend to get more prescriptions than men,” said St. Sauver.

More than 380,000 prescription records of 142,000 patients enrolled in the Rochester Epidemiology Project in Olmsted County, Minnesota were studied over a one year period.

Seventeen percent of those studied were prescribed antibiotics, 13% were taking anti-depressants, and 13% were on opioids. Drugs to lower cholesterol came in fourth (11%) and vaccines were fifth (11%).

Researchers say that prescription drug use has increased steadily in the U.S. over the last decade.  In 1999, the percentage of people who took at least one prescription drug was 44%. That number rose to 48% by 2008 and now stands at 70%.

In 2009, spending on prescription drugs reached $250 billion and accounted for 12% of total personal health care expenditures.

While the number of prescriptions is increasing, many Americans are apparently not taking their medications. A recent large study by one of the nation’s largest drug screening labs found that about 42% of patients had no drugs detected in their urine samples, including medications ordered by their physicians.

Authored by: Richard Lenti

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Hi Karin
I have been told that pain drugs for pain management is much different than pain drug abuse , in fact many times the person that is in pain management forget to take there drugs because they fell so good , conversely it is my understanding that pain drug abuser’s seem to have to have drug all of the time ! All of that said however , I believe that we are most definitely living in a drug culture, and our Doctors having only been schooled by by Big Pharmaceutical Companies refuse to look at any alternatives,and whats worse if an educated doctor does, he immediately gets drummed out of business . This is not good for the people of this country , but it is very good for greedy Big Pharma
Karin I would encourage you to look into alternatives there are many out there , in fact of the people that I have worked with , that truly wanted to escape there symptoms , I have seen very dramatic results , with no drugs use at all !
Brad Whittaker


Karin…. just because you are taking them the way your Dr. says, and not taking them illegally, doesn’t mean you are not a drug addict. You are addicted to drugs…. therefore, you are a drug addict.


I have to put in my two cents worth here. I have been on Vicodin for many years. I have been assured repeatedly by different pharmacists that I do not take nearly enough to make me an addict. I keep to a strict plan and my doctor monitors me closely. I have tried every other form of pain medication that I can and am on Savella and take muscle relaxers as well to keep the knots from forming too badly in my body. My biggest fear? That because of all the people out there who abuse the opioids those of us who are responsible in their use will be denied the undoubted benefit in our pain management programs. Without the blend of medications that I now take I would be bedridden, unable to be of any benefit to myself or my family. As it is even with what I take I cannot work but am still denied SS benefits because fibromyalgia is my only complaint so unlike others who get it by having multiple ailments, I can’t slip through the cracks. If you take my pain meds away from me without having a PROVEN replacement I would be devastated. I understand that there are those out there using these things illegally and abusing them and getting themselves into trouble, but don’t punish all of us for it. I can and have gone without my medication with no adverse effects other than a great increase in pain level. I AM NOT A DRUG ADDICT!!! and I am so tired of being called one. I wish I could have some of these people be in my body for two days, one to see them try and prove me wrong and the second for them to live with the ramifications of trying to prove me wrong. Please level out the reporting on opioid abuse by letting people know that are many out there who use it responsibly and under careful monitoring and quit lumping us in with the drug addicts. It is demeaning and just plain wrong.